I panicked on the bus, which looked like jumping out of my seat and knocking my phone on the floor. Then, I couldn’t pick it up with because my gloves were too thick. I pulled my right glove off with my teeth and grabbed my phone. I Googled the hours for Old Navy– they’d already been open for 20 minutes. It’s a sign, I thought as I watched the bus pass my regular stop. I got off three blocks later, determined to right my Christmas wrongs.
It’s not that I’ve been Grinchy, though I suppose I have. My plate’s been too full, but who the hell’s isn’t, holidays or not? I’d spent the majority of December trying to scale my back urges to buy, buy, buy– I’d left dozens of virtual carts languishing on sites I have no intention of giving my credit card number to.
But then the panic rose like an angry flame. Did I get enough? Had I thrown out the baby with that bath water in my quest to keep it simple and to avoid raising materialistic consumers whose souls can never be quenched because they only want more, more, more?
How the f*ck do I know? Why does everything always come back to whether I did enough?
Pajamas. My mind alighted on the idea that pajamas would fix my growing anxiety. Pajamas are perfect because we need them and the kids will wear them every night. Utility assuages guilt. Plus, if I buy them character PJ’s, then we don’t have to parade all over the city in our Hello Kitty / Spiderman gear. Keeping licensed crap confined to the home also assuages shame.
When I saw that the PJ’s were on sale, it felt like a Christmas miracle. For $10 bucks a pair, I got enough pajamas to last all of 2014 and to have the sensation of enjoying a bounty for Christmas. My arm full of PJ’s sent a message: I am not cheap; I embrace the Christmas spirit; I know how to walk the line between celebration and excess.
Fine, so the Spiderman ones were on the wrong rack and were actually $16.54. Still. It was good enough for me.
When I finally made it to my office, I unloaded my Old Navy bag and opened the document I’ve been working on for a week. But I couldn’t concentrate. The panic still nagged me with the message that our Christmas was still not enough. It’s not even that I thought I needed to buy more stuff, but I felt anxious because there was not enough soul. Or heart. Or something. I took a deep breath. What’s the real problem, here? Not the surface message that our Christmas sort of blows, but the underlying message that’s torqueing all my thoughts.
In the stillness, a word comes to me unbidden. Homesick. But it’s not the kind of homesick that is me pining for some long ago Christmas that slipped through my hands due to the passage of time. It’s the word that best describes the disconnect between the feeling I want and the feeling I actually have in my own home today. And there’s always going to be a disconnect between my expectation and what actually comes to pass, because I suck at predicting how things are gonna go.
Once I heard the word homesick, I relaxed. It’s not my job to close the gaps or fill in the fissures or make life grander than fantasy. My job’s pajamas, and my work here is done.